“Perfection is not when there’s more to add but no more to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Whether you’re creating a company blog, printed brochure, email, or more, the perfect content can often feel like it needs as many details as possible. In an effort to be specific, you may find yourself including all the information you can think of. But, just because you can think them doesn’t mean that your content needs every word and detail you want to share.
Precise content is about sharing the right information with the specific words you need to use to reach your audience. And within this space, less can often become more (unlike transparency). Learning to weed out unnecessary information and language is one of the best ways to be concise and guard your content against unnecessary details. We call that superfluous messaging “fluff.”
Fluffy content may sound harmless, but it can turn off readers — even if they need the services or information you’re providing. Since reading is a learned skill, rather than one we’re born with, we must work hard to develop the ability to read well. And if we’re not the strongest readers, information quickly jams up our information processing. Combine this equation with the fact that we’re worse at understanding information when reading on screens, and all that fluffy content can become a chore to get through.
What creates fluff?
To understand what makes for undesirable fluff (and how to eliminate it from your content), we first need to know how to spot the trouble areas. Fluff can be as small as individual words and as big as entire sections of text.
- On a micro scale, look out for fluff within specific words you use, like too many adverbs, nominalizations, or passive voice constructions. If your sentences contain multiple clauses, you may be able to trim them into more direct, affecting messaging.
- On a macro scale, content fluff might become paragraphs or even sections that don’t reinforce your purpose. Ask yourself: Do these extra details specifically anchor my content’s goals? If not, you might have some fluff on your hands.
Now, let’s explore how that fluff can slow down your content.
How can fluff hurt my content?
In short, you create content people feel frustrated to read. These superfluous words, clauses, and tangents keep you from engaging with your readers, because people don’t read what’s difficult to get through. Here are a few ways fluff might be getting in your way:
- Makes content confusing. Your content may deal with complex issues, but fluff-ridden content can leave your audience wondering, What am I reading? Readers may feel inundated with details or information, leading to feelings of unhappiness, irritation, and confusion.
- Bores my audience. Boring content is forgettable content. Your readers will quickly click away from a page filled with fluff, even if the details contain valuable information. What a missed opportunity!
- Leads to “wall of text.” Long-winded explanations and wordy sentences add up quickly into blocks of context that intimidate readers. It’s amazing how quickly one short paragraph or bulleted list can grow into five or six paragraphs! But remember: People want the ability to scan content and know what it’s about. Long walls of text make doing so impossible.
Your content is your chance to connect with your audiences, build new business, and share your wisdom. By eliminating extraneous details and words, your fluff-free content will be able to communicate with efficiency and purpose — and engage your audiences in a positive brand experience.